From Ireland: I’m 18 never drunk, never had a girlfriend, never took drugs or smoke and never went out. My friends call me the perfect son but I just feel I’m wasting my life. my friends ask me out all the time but I feel scared and uneasy at the thought of going out and “thoughts” of things going wrong stops me every time. Please give me advice on how to overcome this cause I feel I’m losing my childhood because of it.

A: First, let me reassure you that you are not alone. Despite what we see in the media, over 50% of young people have not had a romantic relationship until in their 20s. There is no requirement to drink or do drugs to be getting on with life. In fact, in a 2012 survey only half of Irish teens between ages 15 and 16 had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days and drug use also was also significantly down among Irish teenagers surveyed. Only 19 percent stated that they had used street drugs. So it may be that you are hanging out with the wrong people if you are feeling pressured to drink and drug and get into a romantic relationship. At least half of the teens around you are more like you than you think.

People mature at different ages and in different ways. Rather than focusing on what you don’t do, how about focusing on what you can do to feel more confident and to meet some new people. If you are not involved in some kind of out of school activity, it’s time to start. Working with other people on a project, a sport, a performance or at a job is the most comfortable way to make new friends and to start feeling more social. It may also help you stop those worries about doing something “wrong.” When the focus is the project, game or job, not the relationships, people tend to be less nervous and more able to show themselves to others.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie